Permaculture forum: Soil vs Dirt

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hazelnut
Sep 20, 2013 6:18 PM CST
To me soil is what you wash off your kids face, and its the reason you have to wash his diapers. its dirt I respect. Microbial, stratified dirt. No so for this lady. So Im willing to listen but not likely Ill change my affection for dirt.

http://permaculturenews.org/2013/09/20/soil-not-dirt-dr-elai...
Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
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Paul2032
Sep 20, 2013 6:36 PM CST
Dirt is what you get under your fingernails. Soil is what I plant my flowers in. Do you buy potting soil or potting dirt. Do you have a soil test or a dirt test? Do you order a load of top soil or top dirt? etc. etc, etc.
Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah
[Last edited by Paul2032 - Sep 20, 2013 6:46 PM (+)]
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Sep 20, 2013 6:48 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

I agree

Dirt is dirty lifeless dust that gets everywhere. It's what I wipe from the children's face before we go to town. Smiling Soil is that gloriously living growing medium for our plants. Smiling

Thanks for sharing this link. I'm glad you post news from the PRI website. I'm looking forward to taking the time to watch this video.

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Sep 21, 2013 8:45 AM CST
I spent some 30 years of my life involved in archaeological excavations-- from 2 x 2 x 2 meter holes to 30 m below surface with the help of a back hoe.

What we excavated we always called "dirt" or maybe "backdirt". Maybe it was a reaction to those other guys who called themselves "soil scientists". Im not saying Im right, and you are wrong. Im just sayin' there might be a need for tolerance on this subject (!).

Paul2032. Nope I don't buy "potting soil" -- I make my own planting medium out of perlite, peat or fine pine bark mulch, and . . . dirt.
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
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Horntoad
Sep 21, 2013 10:52 AM CST
It's all a matter of perspective. When I was little I played in the dirt, now I plant in the soil. As and archaeologist, I would imagine you mainly saw a material that needed to be gotten out of the way to get to the objects you wanted to find, so to you it's just dirt. To a gardener it is so much more. As Dave said "Soil is that gloriously living growing medium for our plants." From our perspective, we see what is in the ground as a whole. We see the lifeless minerals and organic materials, along with the living organisms that are all important for the purpose of growing plants.
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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
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RoseBlush1
Sep 21, 2013 1:03 PM CST
I think there is dirt, soil and "stuff". I am gardening in "stuff". The slope where they cut out the house pad and gardening area (almost 50 years ago) is glacier debris/subsoil. It is tightly compacted small rocks and stones with clay between the rocks and it is dead and cannot support plant growth. It's not dirt because I don't track mud into the house even after a heavy rain. It certainly is not soil because there is no organic material in it. So, I call it "stuff". The areas where I have not cultivated still do not grow weeds after nine years of gardening. It does drain very well due to the rocks. Almost like a peculation bed. The uncultivated parts are now called "paths". I'll get to them.

I have mulched with forest duff, pine needles, oak leaves, wood chips, compost and more twice a year ... not all at once ... and have brought the top few inches of the stuff to life ... I couldn't afford to have someone come in and till it ... I still cannot dig deeply with a shovel, but I have plenty of worms and other living things in the areas I have turned into beds. Further down than the top few inches, the rocks are loser than they were when I started, so it is easier to use a pick.

I still cannot go completely organic because organics disappear far too quickly during the high temps of summer, but I can use more organics now than when I started. I also get plenty of weeds in the areas I have cultivated, which to me is a sign that the soil is coming to life. No, I don't like weeding any more than anyone else, and yes, the mulching helps keep the weeds down, but a little part of me is always glad to see them because of the areas that won't grow weeds. Smiling Smiling Smiling

Smiles,
Lyn

I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

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hazelnut
Sep 22, 2013 6:44 AM CST
Horntoad: "As an archaeologist, I would imagine you mainly saw a material that needed to be gotten out of the way to get to the objects you wanted to find, so to you it's just dirt."

I guess this is a very common misconception of archaeology--that we are after objects in the dirt/soil. Actually, archaeology is about is about discovering information in undisturbed soil. . It is actually ==rather than 'objects' --much more exciting to find a buried stratum of black soil, we analyze it for human activity, often finding selected seeds that tell us about the diets and even gardens of people who lived thousands of years ago. But what you said about making dirt out of organized undisturbed soil--yes archaeologists do that. Once the soil is excavated, it has no information value--its just dirt. This is why we call archaeology a "destructive science". Its sort of like 'no-dig' gardening. Once you dig it, you have disturbed the soil processes you actually need to make things grow.

I think L. Wittgenstein said, 'The meaning of a word is its use' and soil and dirt are not used interchangeably, as we have learned in this discussion.

Good luck in your gardening efforts, RoseBlush1. It sounds like a great challenge--the kind that when you win there is the ultimate satisfaction.
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horntoad
Sep 22, 2013 10:17 AM CST
hazelnut said:Horntoad: "As an archaeologist, I would imagine you mainly saw a material that needed to be gotten out of the way to get to the objects you wanted to find, so to you it's just dirt."

I guess this is a very common misconception of archaeology--that we are after objects in the dirt/soil. Actually, archaeology is about is about discovering information in undisturbed soil. . It is actually ==rather than 'objects' --much more exciting to find a buried stratum of black soil, we analyze it for human activity, often finding selected seeds that tell us about the diets and even gardens of people who lived thousands of years ago. But what you said about making dirt out of organized undisturbed soil--yes archaeologists do that. Once the soil is excavated, it has no information value--its just dirt. This is why we call archaeology a "destructive science". Its sort of like 'no-dig' gardening. Once you dig it, you have disturbed the soil processes you actually need to make things grow.

I think L. Wittgenstein said, 'The meaning of a word is its use' and soil and dirt are not used interchangeably, as we have learned in this discussion.

Good luck in your gardening efforts, RoseBlush1. It sounds like a great challenge--the kind that when you win there is the ultimate satisfaction.

No misconception on my part. I just made a slightly simplified statement to make my point about perspective. I realize you are not Indiana Jones looking for valuable artifacts, but your are looking for objects that give clues into past civilizations. My point was that it is 'primarily' the objects contained in the soil that you are interested in, not the soil itself, thus your different perspective and choice of terminology.
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hazelnut
Sep 22, 2013 10:38 AM CST
Actually, we are interested in the soil itself, in addition to any objects that may be in it in situ. Archaeologists are interested in intact soil that has formed over the millennea by natural processes. Its the matrix of soil that tells the story about seeds, strata, charcoal deposits, pollen samples, the arrangement of rocks used to build a fire, arrow heads and ceramics. Once the soil is disturbed, anything it may have contained is of little or no archaeological interest. The provenience is destroyed. The integrity is lost. Most of what archaeologists do in an excavation is shaving soil profiles, to read what is there and interpret the sequence of deposition in that particular place. The layers provide the context for interpreting c 14 dates, and the sequence of occupations. It is the information in intact soil that archaeologists are after. Everything that is removed in an archaeological excavation is meticulously labeled with a provenience location referencing soil profiles to identify exactly where it was in relation to the soil matrix.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
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RoseBlush1
Sep 22, 2013 1:02 PM CST
hazelnut .........

Thank you for the encouragement. All I am doing is what nature does on its own. When I brought in the first load of mulch, I brought in food for the bacteria and made a more friendly environment for the worms that found the cultivated areas on their own. The weeds have done their part to help break up the compacted stuff, too.

I cannot buy soil to bring into the garden or even mulch up here. I live in an old gold mining town in the lower Cascade mountains. I've turned into a real gleaner and have experimented with different types of mulch materials to find out what helps bring the stuff to life. All of my mulch materials break down very quickly, so there is a lot of hard labor to bring in mulch materials. I gather material from the forest and from friends' properties where they have far more trees than I do. I get alfalfa dust from under the pallets at the feed store, plus their rotten hay for my compost pile.

My compost pile is located over the area where I plan to build a raised bed for vegetables. I want the stuff under the raised bed to be alive soil, so that any of the roots of the vegetables that want to go lower than the height of the raised bed will go down into live soil instead of stuff. The vegetable garden will not succeed until I figure out a way to provide some shade. The garden is located between the slope at the back of my property and the house, so it traps heat and cold. It is the intense heat that is harder on all of the plants I have put into the garden more than the cold.

Learning how to garden in what my friends call "glacier slurry" has been a true adventure, because the water does not go where you plan for it to go. What's under the surface plays an important role as to how the water moves through the stuff. I am grateful for the clay because it does hold the moisture and I don't have to worry about walking on it when it is wet because there is so much rock in the stuff, so it does not compact any more than it already is compacted.

This is my first in-ground garden, so I've made plenty of novice mistakes in learning how to garden in glacier slurry. But I am learning. In a way, it's been kind of an adventure. There are no books to tell me how to turn stuff into soil without having to buy amendments, which I cannot purchase up here even if I could afford them. When I started, there were few gardening internet sites. The only nursery up here does not sell quality plants and I have found that as a novice, it's better to start with healthy plants than half dead plants that I have to rescue. So, I've made it up as I go along.

I am currently growing mostly ornamentals. I have planted over 100 roses ... removing those that are not suited to this climate ... and am now learning how to grow other plants. I am a rose nut and my dream was to create this fantastic garden of roses that are no longer in commerce and to grow my own food. It's taking a lot longer than I planned, that's all.

Since I know more than the average gardener about roses, I can learn from the roses what is working and what I need to change to have healthier plants.

I may not end up with the garden of my dreams, but I will have a garden.

Smiles,
Lyn



I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Sep 22, 2013 1:29 PM CST
Rose Blush:

I don't know how anyone can live in California and not garden. I used to live in Santa Barbara, San Jose, and San Diego. Everywhere, you can garden all year round. Plant bare root roses on Christmas vacation. That black clay coastal soil--I remember it well! caliche. I realize you are further up in the Mountains. What an inspiring place to be. Roses love California. Have you ever toured the old missions? Last time I was there, the nuns have done a great job of saving the old roses that came from Spain back then.

There are some links in this article that you might find interesting.

http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/710/

Note: gloria125 is me.
[Last edited by hazelnut - Sep 22, 2013 1:37 PM (+)]
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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Sep 22, 2013 4:29 PM CST
Gloria.........

I grew up in Los Gatos long before it was over-developed. I lived in San Diego for most of my adult life. I now live in Weaverville which is the second mother lode of the gold rush. It's located between Redding and Eureka on the Valley side of the mountains, so I get the Valley heat without the coastal influence.

There are three species roses in Trinity County: R. gymnocarpa, R. pisocarpa and R. spithamea. All other species roses were brought here by animals, birds and humans. Yes, I do go rose rustling.

You cannot garden year round up here ! We honestly do have four seasons. At my elevation, I get snow, but not much, but night temps are well below freezing.

I don't grow any once bloomers or climbing roses because we have rose curculio weevils here and I dis-bud the roses during the season they are above ground so that they don't breed in my garden.

Yes, I have toured the old missions and have worked at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden. Maybe you already know, but the Sacramento Cemetery Rose Garden is a depository for "found" roses planted during the Gold Rush and found all over California. A beautiful rose garden !

Smiles,
Lyn

PS ... great article !
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Sep 22, 2013 6:24 PM CST
Did not know that there is now a found rose garden at Sacramento. I have not been in California for some time--but that's where I learned about roses.

For more about native California roses, see this article:

http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/ina/roses/roses.html

And for more about roses native to the U.S. see my article cited above.

In archaeology we often work in condemned land: beautiful farms turned into roads, reservoirs, or nuclear plants. I did have a collection of old roses salvaged from those condemned properties and daylilies, also. But, one year I lost all of my outside water, and that did in the roses. A few daylilies--not many--survived. Water can be critical.
[Last edited by hazelnut - Sep 22, 2013 6:32 PM (+)]
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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Sep 22, 2013 8:30 PM CST
Thanks for the link. I love reading things like that.

Here's a link to the Sacramento Cemetery Rose Garden

http://www.cemeteryrose.org/

As for whether or not a rose will survive without water ... as usual, it depends on the rose.

I have enough roses for now and am still working on turning my stuff into soil so that I can grow other plants.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Sep 22, 2013 8:58 PM CST
Whether a rose will survive without water probably depends on rainfall. Usually, we have an over abundance of rain here. But a summer without rain at 100 F+ will kill hybrid teas.

Thanks for the link.

I remember the rose garden at San Jose -- I think it is the first one I ever visited. And then there were the old roses at the Santa Barbara botanic garden -- I was hooked.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Sep 22, 2013 9:44 PM CST
Roses can be addictive.

Our gardens are often, in a sense, an artificial environment where we provide water and nutrients that are not provided by nature. I get no summer rain, yet in some years we get as much as 40 to 50 inches of rain in the winter months. So, I have to provide water during the dry months to have a vigorous plant. However, some HTs will survive without the water. They won't thrive, but many won't die, either. So, to me, it depends on the rose.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
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purpleinopp
Sep 23, 2013 9:03 AM CST
I hope everyone watched the whole linked video, excellent stuff!

"There are no books to tell me how to turn stuff into soil without having to buy amendments."
Anything written about composting is in this category.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
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☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Sep 23, 2013 5:27 PM CST
purpleinopp ..........

Thank you. Using compost to build soil is exactly the theory behind my mulching twice a year. I cannot create enough compost for the whole garden, so I have to go out and gather/glean materials for the beds. It's impossible to dig anything into the stuff, so everything gets put on top.

I got the idea from Ruth Stout's book How To Have A Green Thumb Without an Aching Back. In a way she was a pioneer about mulch gardening. Of course, her own garden had been tilled every spring for years before she started mulch gardening, but it's still the best way I could figure out about how to turn stuff into soil.

It's working. It just takes a lot of hard labor and time.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Sep 23, 2013 6:00 PM CST
Rose Blush:

Have you read much about hugelkultur? Well, first do you have a source of wood--shrubs, trees, that can be cut and used as a base for a raised bed.

You put the soil on top of the wood, so if soil is in short supply, its a good way "to make dirt".
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Sep 23, 2013 9:46 PM CST
Hi Gloria.......

Yes, I have heard about hugelkultur. In a sense that is what I am doing. No, there is no wood or brush on my property to do that kind of thing. But, the truth is, I had not heard of it when I started this garden.

In my first post to this thread, I described my "stuff". It is highly compacted rocks and stones with clay between them. There is so much rock in the stuff that I can walk on it when it is wet. It drains beautifully. Since the house pad and garden area was cut out of a slope created by glacier debris and is about four feet down from what would be the surface of that rocky slope, you could also legitimately say my "stuff" is subsoil. It is so far down from what would have been the surface of the slope, there was no plant organic material in it, so for plant growth, it is dead. That is why I don't need weed barrier for the uncultivated parts that I now call paths Hilarious!

My first novice mistake was to dig rose holes in the stuff and to mix compost with the native soil to plant my roses. Of course, the compost decomposed and my roses sunk ! Ooops !

I created beds by hauling river rocks from the dredging piles and then mulched not only the roses, but the beds I created around them. I made a point of overhead watering the beds to help with decomposing the material I had used as mulch. Over time, the continuous addition of plant organic materials, watering them during the periods of high temps, and their decomposing has created live soil a few inches down and if you go down further, the rocks are no longer as tightly compacted.

Since I can't buy soil up here, I do have to make my own. I now have plenty of sources for leaves, forest duff, wood chips, rotten hay and more. I just have to go get it, haul it home and haul it up from the street level to the house pad/gardening level and then put it in the beds.

A friend up the road a piece is going to build a compost bin for me on his property and since he has all of the materials on site at his property, will be filling it for me. That will make my life a bit easier.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

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